School bus drivers play an instrumental role in both promoting student mental health and reducing violence and bullying among students. To support bus drivers in these roles, leaders from Middletown, Connecticut instituted two programs: The Peaceful School Bus program aimed to decrease disruptive behavior and bullying on school buses, and Kognito aimed to help bus drivers identify and refer students experiencing mental health challenges. Principals in participating schools indicated that no incidents of bullying occurred on school buses during first the year of program implementation, and reported that relationships among bus drivers and school staff were “respectful and collaborative.”
The goals of the Peaceful School Bus program are to build positive, cooperative ties between bus drivers, students, and school staff to eliminate inappropriate behaviors and bullying on the bus. The program increases students’ ownership and responsibility for bus safety rules, and teaches better communication skills between bus riders and drivers with the expectation that students’ bus behavior match the classroom. Kognito offers school bus drivers the opportunity to interact virtually (using computer simulation) with students who are experiencing psychological distress. They are taught skills to identify distress, approach the student in conversation, and refer the student for mental health
“Regular off-the-bus group discussions foster a better sense of community and offer a
unique space for students to explore solutions for a positive bus ride.”
Mark Langton - Middletown Transportation Director
“It’s all about relationships. When students have to develop trust (with the driver), they’re less likely to act up.”
Patricia Charles - Middletown Superintendent of Schools
Schools participating in the Peaceful School Bus program have been able to sustain its implementation because there is no ongoing cost, and other districts across Connecticut have begun to adopt the model to address incidents of bullying and conflict on their school buses.